Friday, September 26, 2003

There's an odd article on defending a liberty that few care to defend these days, the right not to associate.
Suppose a beautiful woman wants to date me, but I don't want to date her. It might be for a good reason, bad reason or no reason at all. Should I be free not to deal with her? Similarly, you might want to come to my party or enroll your children in my private school, but I don't want to deal with you. My refusal might be for any arbitrary reason, including your race, sex or religion, or because I don't like your looks. Should the government force us to associate with those we wish not to associate?

The article is all about the slippery slope, which is a fine thing to point out, although the presence of a slippery slope doesn't mean we shouldn't draw a line somewhere. I'm more annoyed by the articles' refusal to take a stand, instead it slides you down the slippery slope with questions then insinuates an answer based on consistency arguments.
Isn't there a general principle here? Namely, that if one cherishes freedom of association, is there a logically consistent argument for permitting it in some areas of our lives and not in others? ... The bottom line is that the true test of one's commitment to freedom of association doesn't come when he allows people to associate in ways he deems acceptable. The true test comes when he's willing to permit others to associate in ways he deems grossly offensive.

(Note that the author does entirely defend laws against discrimination in publicly-financed activities -- this point was lost on me in my first reading).

Anyway, this part reminded me of a plan of my Mom's from way, way back:

Today, most Americans would be offended by any law that banned blacks and whites from playing tennis together or marrying one another. Wouldn't it be just as offensive were there a law requiring blacks and whites to play tennis together or marry one another?
My Mom suggested when I was writing a high school paper on some history or social science topic, that the government should reduce racism by offering a miscegenation bonus, possibly linked to the number of mixed-race babies produced. Marriage and reproduction are already part of the government program in any country that taxes married couples less (or more) than the same two individuals because of their legal status, and in every country that has a baby bonus as part of its tax program. Historically, these programs have had a significant measurable effect on peoples' behavior. When Lower Canada decided to improve its economy and political weight by becoming more populous, it did so in part by offering a generous new baby bounty program but only if the children did not become priests or nuns (presumably this political weight therefore came partly at the expense of the Roman Catholic Church). This program coupled with catholic birth control practices (i.e. none) led to families routinely of sizes from eight to fourteen children. Likewise, a miscegenation bounty would hasten the day when we're all kind of coffee-coloured and one-sixteenth of everything you can think of.

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